Saihanba Wind Farm in Inner Mongolia. © Simon Lim / Greenpeace
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#Climate #Consumption #Health How to recover from the coronavirus pandemic

How Canada recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic can be a new beginning.

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Art by Jenn Woodall and Greenpeace

What if Greenpeace was asked to write the Speech from the Throne? Why, we thought you’d never ask.

The Speech from the Throne is a formal address that opens a new session of Parliament. In the speech, the government outlines its upcoming legislative and budgetary priorities. In exactly one week, on September 23rd, Governor General Julie Payette will deliver the speech to Members of Parliament and Senators on behalf of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government. Prime Minister Trudeau promised that the speech would outline the path toward a green and just recovery from covid-19.

Here’s our take on what the speech should sound like in order to live up to that promise.

Our Speech from the Throne

Honourable Senators,

Members of the House of Commons,

It is my pleasure to welcome you back to Canada’s 43rd Parliament. 

Six months ago, covid-19 had just begun to change our lives in ways we could only have imagined at the start of 2020. The loss of life has been devastating. The impact on our lives and economy, staggering.

But Canadians have risen to the challenge. Political leaders at all levels deployed every tool in their toolboxes to keep us safe and well. A nationwide movement of care-mongering blossomed.

Though we remain vigilant against a second wave, we’re now taking the first steps to plan our path to recovery. 

This is a crucial moment for the future of our country.

The pandemic revealed some ugly truths about our society — truths that were hiding in plain sight. Women, along with Black, Brown, Indigenous, and low-income communities have been worst-impacted and most vulnerable. Millions of Canadians struggled to support their families as businesses closed and people were laid off. On top of all this, we coped with blistering summer heatwaves and wildfires, both certainly influenced by climate change.

As my Prime Minister has said: We should always take advantage of moments of crisis to reflect: Can we change the system to do better?

I know we can. I know we must.

We will respect the lives of the Canadians we lost by turning this tragedy into a better world for everyone. We can make sure that our struggles have not been in vain. 

The long-term recovery from covid-19 will see governments around the world, including ours, inject more money into our economy than ever before in history. It is an unprecedented opportunity to nurture the seeds of a stronger society.

As we have said before, just because we’re in a health crisis doesn’t mean we can neglect the environmental crisis. Neither can we ignore the “she-cession” or the centuries long pain of systemic racism and colonization. Poll after poll shows that Canadians are ready for change. We need to take better care of each other and the planet we call home. 

We promised Canadians a recovery that is green and equitable, and that is a promise we will keep. 

Transforming social safety nets

Throne Speech and Greenpeace: A universal basic income for those in need.

A national childcare program.

A national pharmacare program.

Filling gaps in employment protection programs, from conditions for care home workers to paid sick leave minimums for all workers.

To urgently address Canadians’ immediate needs, we need to take care-mongering to the national policy level and address the fundamental gaps in our social safety nets revealed by the pandemic: 

  • Chief among these are measures to reduce income inequality: a living wage and a universal basic income for those in need.
  • We will also institute a national childcare program to reduce barriers to women’s work participation. There can be no recovery without them.
  • Thirdly, we will implement a national pharmacare program so that no Canadian goes broke staying healthy.
  • Fourth, we will shore up gaps in employment protection programs, from conditions for care home workers to nationally legislated paid sick leave minimums for all workers. 

The values underpinning our economic system must help build a kinder, modern Canada.

Safeguarding the environment

Throne Speech and Greenpeace: full decarbonization, protection of nature, $$$ for a circular economy and regenerative farming

These social safety nets are more important than ever in a climate emergency.  Like covid-19, climate change will have the worst impacts on the people who are most vulnerable in society and who have the least resources. 

That’s why we will be fast-tracking our climate promises and legislating a new commitment to achieve full decarbonization by 2040. To achieve this, we will work transparently with the public, provinces and municipalities to develop a detailed Decarbonization 2040 Strategy. This strategy will map out Canada’s path to 100% clean energy through investments in renewable energy production, like green hydrogen, geothermal, wind and solar.

Our decarbonization strategy must also make our lives better, which is why we will be supporting initiatives that make our towns and cities healthier and more liveable:

  • Expanding cycling and walking infrastructure.
  • Funding free, accessible electrified public transit that gets you where you need to be, when you need to be there and at low or no cost.
  • We will ban new sales of the internal combustion engine by 2030, assisting automakers to create jobs and transition to electric vehicles production. 
  • We will institute better green building codes alongside investments in affordable housing, creating new construction jobs and providing low-carbon social housing, while ensuring priority for low income, racialized and Indigenous communities.

Canada is home to an incredible wealth of innovation in science, technology and engineering. We can do this, together.

We are also home to an incredible array of forests, fresh water, and marine life. Natural ecosystems store massive amounts of carbon. To safeguard this irreplaceable service, we will deliver on our promise to protect 30% of Canada’s lands, oceans and freshwaters by 2030. 

  • We will invest in nature-based jobs that restore vital ecosystems, such as wildfire-ravaged forests, degraded watersheds we depend on for clean drinking water, coastlines vulnerable to rising seas, and wetlands that guard against floods.
  • We will safeguard food security, by investing in community-based farming and supporting jobs in regenerative agriculture. Transforming our unsustainable industrial model into thriving, small-scale operations is essential to fixing our broken food system.
  • Furthermore, we will take steps to end the current take-make-waste consumption model by implementing our ban on single-use consumer plastics and supporting innovation for zero-waste supply chains to build a truly circular economy. 

Our planet is our life support system. Working together to protect it must be a cornerstone of our national and foreign policy.

Justice for women, Indigenous Peoples and and racialized communities

Throne Speech and Greenpeace: justice for women, Indigenous Peoples and racialized communities

Finally, our government must do the hard work of righting the ongoing legacy of sexism, racism and colonization. These are matters of values, but they are also matters of budget.

In the “she-cession”, women have borne the brunt of the economic losses, representing 70% of all job losses in the core demographic of 25 to 54 years old in March of this year. Recognizing this, we will take steps to ensure equal pay and safe employment conditions in sectors like care work, where women are overrepresented, especially for racialized and migrant women. We see this work for the essential and low-carbon economic service that it is. We will also ensure support for women-owned business, social enterprises and charities as well as apply a gender lens to covid-19 policies and job creation plans.

At the same time, this government will, in good faith, ensure respect for Indigenous rights and law, working in a nation-to-nation partnership. We have not been holding up our end of the bargain. We pledge to do better, starting by ensuring clean drinking water and good housing for all Indigenous communities. 

We will act immediately to comply with the Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Calls for Justice in the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry as well as by passing legislation implementing UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including Article 32 requiring respect for the the free, prior and informed consent related to developments on traditional territories. Projects not in line with the law will not be permitted to proceed.

The quest for justice cannot end there. It is ongoing. Justice for Regis Korchinski-Paquet,  

D’Andre Campbell, and too many other Black lives taken too soon demands that Canada urgently work to end systemic racism in federal institutions, to reduce the budget of the RCMP and to invest in mental health funding and other services for racialized communities.

We will further outline a clear path to citizenship and ensure employment conditions for the migrant workers across Canada — the people growing our food and the “guardian angels” caring for our elders. This is not only the “thank you” you deserve, but the rights you are owed.

Making the change we need a fiscal reality

Throne Speech and Greenpeace: Implement a wealth tax and ban the use of tax havens.

End fossil fuels subsidies and cancel construction of the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline.

Make big polluters pay their fair share to address climate change.

If you think this sounds ambitious, you’re right. The coming months and years will be life-changing, like the introduction of our universal public health care system.

To make this happen, we will be implementing a wealth tax, banning the use of tax havens, ending fossil fuel subsidies and ensuring that the biggest polluting companies pay their fair share to address climate change.

We must recognize that oil markets have fundamentally changed. While green energy prospects soar, the price of oil has been crashing for years.  With even major oil companies like BP saying that oil demand will drop in the coming years, oil is no longer the economic powerhouse or safe bet Canadians have thought it to be. We must face this new market reality with clear eyes. 

As such, we have made the decision to cancel the construction of the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline. This decision will free up billions of dollars to make Canada a clean energy leader, and reposition western Canada for the future. We will prioritize retraining workers, ensuring those in transition have quality incomes and can transition into green hydrogen, geothermal, wind and solar, where so many of their skills are desperately needed. 

If covid-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we cannot treat our economy in isolation.

In this 43rd Parliament, we must overcome our differences and work together to flatten the curves of covid-19, rising emissions, and climbing inequality. The challenges we face are bigger than what divides us, as is our resolve.

Parliamentarians — Canadians are counting on you. Let’s prove ourselves up to the task of building back better.

Members of the House of Commons: you will be asked to appropriate the funds to carry out the services and expenditures authorized by Parliament.

Honourable Members of the Senate and Members of the House of Commons: as you carry out your duties and exercise your responsibilities, may you be guided by the will of the people.